Did you know that dementia is not actually a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms? These symptoms come in many forms, and they vary from person to person. This is one of the reasons why dementia is so widespread – because it is hard to distinguish the normal changes we experience in older age from indicators of dementia.
In fact, if dementia is diagnosed early, it can be treated with medications that prevent the conditions causing this damage to brain function. But what are the main tell-tale symptoms of dementia?
If you are concerned about changes in the behaviour of a loved one, here is our advice on how to spot the signs of dementia.
Dementia or general ageing?
As with many degenerative diseases, the easiest way to distinguish symptoms of dementia from the natural symptoms of ageing is the regularity with which it occurs. For example, it is normal to make a bad decision once in a while, but if your loved one consistently exhibits poor judgement, there may be cause for concern.
Similarly, everyone will sometimes lose a personal item or forget which word they’re looking for, but if someone is having real difficulty holding a conversation, or keeps misplacing items and not being able to follow steps to retrieve them, dementia may be more likely.
If you are unsure whether what you are observing is a one-off incident or a more long-term problem, try writing down moments that have concerned you. This means you can later refer back to your notes to see if there is a pattern.
The main symptoms of dementia
So, what are the main symptoms of dementia? Of course, these will vary from person to person, but the general NHS-accepted symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Struggling to carry out usual daily tasks
- Inability to follow a conversation
- Becoming confused about time and place
- Abrupt mood changes
Dementia can impact a wide range of brain functions, from the obvious factors such as memory and thinking speed to language, movement and mood. Some people experiencing dementia may seem to process information more slowly, whereas others may appear to become irrational or obsessive.
The most well-known sign of dementia is, of course, memory loss. However, this isn’t the usual forgetting of memories from months ago that you might expect with old age. In patients with dementia, even recently-acquired information can be forgotten rapidly. Individuals with dementia may ask the same questions over and over again, or repeat an anecdote several times in one conversation.
Symptoms of different kinds of dementia
Diagnosing dementia is made somewhat more complicated by the fact that there are actually several forms of the syndrome.
For example, vascular dementia – the second most common cause of dementia – can inhibit movement, changing the way a person walks. It can also affect how people plan or reason, and contribute to depression or a heightened emotional state.
Frontotemporal dementia, on the other hand, can cause personality changes such as a reduced sensitivity to other’s feelings, or a general lack of social awareness. It can also cause people to struggle with remembering or understanding words, and lead to obsessive behaviour such as food cravings. These kinds of symptoms are particularly important to pay attention to, as frontotemporal dementia is the most common form of early-onset dementia among younger people.
When it comes to dementia, there is no guaranteed formula to diagnosis. However, if you are aware of these main symptoms of dementia, you will be able to seek GP advice as soon as you need to. Once you have a diagnosis, you can focus on treatment and making life for the individual with dementia as comfortable as possible.
To find out more about how simple home adaptations can profoundly improve the quality of life of individuals with dementia, contact us on 0800 083 2034.